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Spirits of the Ordinary

Alcala, Kathleen. (1998). Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes. Harvest Books.

While I enjoyed Spirits of the Ordinary, there was something about it that I found not as interesting or on par with other books of magical realism. I’ve enjoyed books by Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel, and so I thought this would be similar. I shouldn’t have gone into reading a book with that frame of mind. I found the story interesting, but many components of the story were lacking for me and some of the character development could have been more complete for my understanding of their involvement in the story.


The Carabajal family secretly practices their Jewish faith in a northern Mexican village of the 1870s. The patriarch, Julio, spends his days in his secret library, and his wife, Mariana, is clairvoyant yet cannot speak. Their son, Zacarias, is obsessed with prospecting for gold. Zacarias’ wife, Estela, is from a Catholic family with some of their own secrets. Estela is an independent woman, raising the children on her own during her husband's long gold-hunting absences. Eventually, she decides to cut him off financially to hopefully encourage Zacarias to end his gold-hunting and return to a more traditional trade at home. And, among that and other turmoil, Zacarias is hunted by the government for supposedly inciting an Indian uprising in the sacred cliff dwellings of Casas Grandes.



Review by Cassandra E. Osterloh, NHCC Librarian.


Book available in the NHCC Library: PS3551.L287 S65 1998

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